Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, July 2, 2006
By: Art Vuolo
When you write a radio column in a major metropolitan area, you have occasions best described as a slow news week. This was not one of them. The most shocking news of all was the weekend programming change at newstalk WJR-AM (760), which saw popular personality and consumer watchdog Murray Gula leave the building. It's not clear what actually lead to the changes -- station staffer and program co-host John McCulloch had no comment -- but it's clear that the audience is not pleased with the decision. I've received a number of e-mails wanting to know why this happened. Advertisers, on the seemingly always-sold-out program, also have expressed their disappointment.
The listener response has been overwhelming in support of Gula, who had become a staple of helping people with home improvement problems throughout WJR's massive coverage area. In late-breaking news, however, it looks as though Gula will remain as spokesperson for a number of his on-air supporters. He can be reached via his Web site, www.murraygula.com. Gula will continue to guest on Bob Allison's show on multilingual WNZK-AM (690) at 10:30 a.m. Fridays. He also did a home improvement special on WXYZ-Channel 7. Insiders have indicated more involvement with the popular television station could be in the offing. Stay tuned.
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Another amazing "turn" of events is at all-news WWJ-AM (950). Some radio insiders felt they should install a revolving door at the entrance of the building. After an almost-unheard-of 25 years, all-night news man Brad Bianchi was let go in a move that has the Internet message boards buzzing. One local broadcaster said, "Do you realize how many morning guys in this town have listened to Brad on their way into work for years?" The answer is, a lot of them. WWJ management would not comment, but forgiveness is a hard commodity to come by these days in the radio biz. After so many years of service, one might have thought whatever it was, Bianchi should have been offered another chance. Plus, who can you even get to do overnight news for five hours and sound as professional as Brad? Reports say that former WXYT program director Rob Sanford will take over that shift.
Before we leave Detroit's first radio station, we wanted you to know about yet another body spun through the revolving exit door on American Drive in Southfield -- and that's WWJ's weekend news anchor and former "Auto-Beat" reporter Mike Campbell. I've said it before -- radio has never been a bastion of stability, and that is true now more than ever.
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In the late '80s, those of you who tuned to WCZY, better known as Z-95.5, would surely recognize the voice of Jim Ellis. Sadly, Jim died a week ago from a heart attack while visiting locally from his home up in Traverse City. He even drove himself to the hospital, but a second heart attack while "on the table" took his life shortly after his 48th birthday. Ellis also worked at WLLZ -- now WVMV-FM (98.7) -- and did the morning show after leaving Detroit at St. Louis' legendary K-SHE 95. Up North, Ellis worked at rock powerhouse WKLT-FM (97.5 and 98.9), where he was teamed with current WJR newsman Pete Misiak. Former Z-95.5 jock Brian Patrick, now working under his real name Brian Peck, at pop WTMX-FM (101.9) in Chicago, flew in for the memorial service and remembered Ellis as a funny guy with a heart of gold.
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A local guy making it big nationally is WJR's Paul W. Smith, who will be subbing for talk host and newsmaker Rush Limbaugh from noon to 3 p.m. Monday. Paul does a superb filling-in for El Rushbo.
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Tune in for great patriotic music with Tom Wilson on "Somewhere in Time" at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5).
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Have a safe Independence Day -- and may the best fireworks continue to be on the radio!
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Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com.